Patricia Bauer discusses the issue of abortion as it relates to Downs' Syndrome individuals. She knows whereof she speaks.
I have struggled with this question almost since our daughter Margaret was born, since she opened her big blue eyes and we got our first inkling that there was a full-fledged person behind them.
Whenever I am out with Margaret, I'm conscious that she represents a group whose ranks are shrinking because of the wide availability of prenatal testing and abortion. I don't know how many pregnancies are terminated because of prenatal diagnoses of Down syndrome, but some studies estimate 80 to 90 percent.
What I don't understand is how we as a society can tacitly write off a whole group of people as having no value. I'd like to think that it's time to put that particular piece of baggage on the table and talk about it, but I'm not optimistic. People want what they want: a perfect baby, a perfect life. To which I say: Good luck. Or maybe, dream on.
And here's one more piece of un-discussable baggage: This question is a small but nonetheless significant part of what's driving the abortion discussion in this country. I have to think that there are many pro-choicers who, while paying obeisance to the rights of people with disabilities, want at the same time to preserve their right to ensure that no one with disabilities will be born into their own families. The abortion debate is not just about a woman's right to choose whether to have a baby; it's also about a woman's right to choose which baby she wants to have.
When I was young I saw people with goiters. For some reason I remember women, although men can have them as well. Thanks to the addition of iodine to our diet, goiters have now vanished, along with teh leg braces that came after polio and eye patches. We may not notice, but Downs Syndrome men and women seem to be disappearing as well.
There is something wrong here.
This can be a very slippery slope, indeed. A well-known radio talk show host argued last week that the life of a rich person is more valuable than that of a poor one. He defended what he said just yesterday after restricting the argument by a spate of qualifiers, and has made similar remarks in the past that skate perilously close to the notion of eugenics.